Learning Chinese

The ideal approach to study Chinese is with a Chinese instructor, especially in individual one-on-one classes; yet, it may be difficult for Chinese teachers to be entirely honest about the difficulties their pupils may encounter. That doesn't mean your Chinese instructor is intentionally being dishonest with you, but they may be exaggerating the ease with which you can pick up the language.

That you cannot become proficient in three months.

It's no secret that Chinese is a tough language to master. However, it is also uncommon for Chinese language schools to overestimate their students' ability to achieve "fluency" in the language. You can't merely make educated guesses about the meanings of Chinese words, as you can with languages like French and German, which are more closely connected to English than Chinese is. This implies that you will need to put in a lot of time studying and reviewing in order to achieve even a basic level of fluency. Consider our advice: If you have an idea of how many months of study you'll need to achieve fluency, double that number. This process will take that long.

The Chinese culture places a premium on saving and investing for the future.

Just like studying any other language, Chinese demands time and effort every day. One study session at a time will get you there; for example, you may challenge yourself to learn ten new characters every day or to conduct a five-minute conversation in Chinese with someone else.

Putting in this type of consistent effort on a daily basis is like saving money over time for your Chinese studies, with each day putting you that much closer to your goal. If they want to keep their pupils from growing bored, Chinese instructors may often rush through a variety of language themes in one lecture and assign homework that builds on material taught in the previous class. Therefore, as a student, it is your responsibility to regularly review previously covered material. Invest some time into making sure you have a firm grasp on every term and character. It's not simply your prior projects that count, though. If you want to get the most out of your Chinese classes, reading the materials before you enter the classroom is a must. You will never master Chinese until you practice like this every day.

It is not necessary to memorize every single letter and symbol you encounter. Consider your options.

I've previously told you that putting in the time and effort required to learn Chinese will pay off in the long run, but that doesn't mean you can't use reasonable short-cuts. Although Chinese educators are usually adamant that their pupils memorize every single word of the textbook, the sheer volume of memorization may be exhausting. Instead, it's preferable to focus on memorizing the foundational letters and phrases that appear regularly. Putting in the additional effort now may seem like a waste of time, but it's really a long-term investment (see point 2) that will save you a ton of time later on. If you're having trouble getting started, reference online lists like the frequency and vocabulary lists provided here. If the length of the characters seems insurmountable, you may understand their meaning by first identifying their constituent parts. Gradually, you'll notice that you're grasping the majority of what you read.

You probably won't ever pass for a native Chinese speaker.

This is perhaps the most difficult secret to embrace, and while some Chinese students get very near, it's crucial that they recognize this before setting their sights too high. Native Chinese speakers and those who have made China their permanent home nonetheless make mistakes sometimes. The key point to keep in mind is that none of this is relevant. As a result, there is no such thing as a standard pronunciation of Chinese and there is no such thing as a native speaker of Chinese. You may relax knowing that native Chinese speakers also struggle to utilize "perfect" Mandarin.

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